Waldorf is an education system developed in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner in Europe. The basic premise of a Waldorf education is the rejection of materialism and embracing the spiritual aspects of humanity. The Waldorf method addresses the three aspects of humanity as defined by Steiner, physical, emotional, and thinking often referred to as the hands, heart, and head. Steiner believed that the education system spent too much time on the “thinking” at the expense of the “physical” and “emotional.”
Although Waldorf educators argue that a full education must engage the hands, heart, and head, they also believe that the last should be de-emphasized in a child’s early years. This has to do with Steiner’s “threefold” view of human beings–a view that drives the entire Waldorf curriculum. Essentially, Steiner conceived of human development as unfolding in three stages: The first (through about age 6) is identified with the will, the second (from approximately ages 7 through 14) with the feelings, and the third (ages 15 and up) with thinking. Each stage encompasses the previous one: The healthy, well-educated adult, then, is not so much characterized by the intellect but rather is someone who comes to place the intellect alongside human will and feeling as essential aspects of the “whole” human being.
David Ruenzel, The Waldorf Way, 1995
The Waldorf approach emphasizes the arts and crafts which allows children to develop their imagination. Physical movement, often in the form of dance or eurhythmy, is part of the learning process. Foreign languages are introduced early in the Waldorf curriculum. There are few or no textbooks. Students make their own textbooks called “Main Lesson Books” for each Main Lesson Block.
Waldorf education is known for it’s emphasis on festivals, teaching material in blocks based on themes, and discouragement of TV watching. Identifying and following natural rhythms of your family and your surroundings are central to the Waldorf approach. Subjects are taught based on experiences rather than concepts.
The spiritual aspect of the Waldorf approach, the teaching of reverence, is often mistaken for the practice of a religion. Waldorf advocates maintain that reverence can be taught within the context of whatever spiritual or religious beliefs you might have.
There are a variety of free curriculum examples by grade for Waldorf education. There are also a number of commercial providers who will develop a curriculum to your specific needs.